Asymmetrical conflict in the blogosphere

I met with a potential client the other day who was on red alert because there were a lot of nasty things being said about them on blogs, comments and forums. And I thought of the concept of asymmetrical conflict as we have learned about it in recent years.

Even without knowing whether the criticism of the client was deserved: for a single act, or a pattern of action, or not at all, it struck me that they were in a very tough and unfair spot. If you look at nasty blog posts or comment streams, it is hard to deny that there's a piling on, hit them when they are down dynamic.

When hearing the people and effort that this client had deployed to try to respond to this, and how helpless they felt, i did feel sympathy. Once a thread about your company, or your product, or yourself, starts up, and gets interesting, it gathers a crowd, maybe because they agree, but just as easily because the attacker is funny or outrageous or clever in an evil way.

And then Google gets a hold of it, and before long negative diatribes become number one and two hits when people search for it. And there's not a thing you can do about it.

Basically what's going on is that individuals (bloggers but just as easily comment posters) invest almost no time, equipment or money to create essentially an attack which gets magnified 10 or 100 fold by the crowd mentality and then the search engines, and which the target, no matter how much time, equipment or money, cannot really defend against, even when it's totally untrue or unfair. Asymmetrical conflict.

Yeah I know this is the way it goes on the web and it's just one dark flip side of all the good that we get from the internet. But I know I personally will think twice before zipping off a blog post or comment in anger.

Posted on May 22, 2008 and filed under Blogs, Life, Technology.